Editorial: Details matter with rail inspection | TribLIVE.com
Editorials

Editorial: Details matter with rail inspection

1650673_web1_gtr-weekinpics05-081318
Crews carefully move a container off the tracks near the T station on the South Side, Monday, August 6, 2018, where a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed around 1 p.m. Sunday and landed on Port Authorityճ tracks near Station Square.

The devil is in the details.

On Aug. 4, 2018, a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed near Station Square in Pittsburgh.

Given the proximity of people at the Port Authority T track below, it is providential that there were no casualties. But there were costs. Local transit riders were disrupted for weeks as both the Station Square T stop and the Monongahela Incline were closed for 20 days.

The price tag was high. Labor alone was over $2 million for both Port Authority employees and contractors. The total bill sent to Norfolk Southern was for $3 million.

It didn’t take long for the company to identify the problem. It was a broken rail. They said so shortly after the derailment.

It shouldn’t have taken that long. A new report from the Federal Railroad Administration says the track inspector should have spotted that break 16 days earlier.

According to the report, camera images from the July 20 Sperry Rail Service inspection showed the broken rail.

“The operator’s decisions to disregard induction channel responses from the initial test and not utilize the camera images were serious oversights,” the report said.

That’s definitely true.

But it’s also true that there were other opportunities to catch the break. Norfolk Southern inspects that area twice a week. The last time was two days before the train derailed.

An inspection is more than just a line of boxes to check off. It isn’t something that tolerates complacency. It isn’t something that can be dismissed as overkill.

It is important, and the derailment illustrates why. Don’t pay attention to what is being inspected and why and bad things can happen.

The broken rails were particularly important because of the trains that travel that track. The derailed cars were double-deckers. Seven cars were derailed, but they carried twice as much freight. They had twice as much opportunity to cause damage, twice as much opportunity to injure.

The railroad and the inspectors should have been twice as careful about making sure those rails were safe and whole — especially as Norfolk Southern has pursued putting more doubled cars through the city.

When it comes to safety, the details count.

Categories: Opinion | Editorials
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.